If you have ever typed in a domain name and been taken to a different webpage or seen an error instead of the site you wanted, then you could have encountered a domain name collision.
This term specifically refers to instances where unexpected search results or errors occur as a result of clashes between private and public domain names.
Generally private name spaces (such as personal networks) and public domain name servers are separated by the networks that they use, but the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) says that collisions are more likely when the domain names used between private and public servers are the same or very similar.
“For an analogy, consider calling for ‘Mary’ in your office where you’ve assumed there’s only one ‘Mary’, and then calling out ‘Mary’ in a shopping mall and expecting that ‘office Mary’ will respond,” ICANN explains in its Name Collisions FAQs.
“This manifests online, when users unknowingly access a name that has been delegated in the public DNS when the user’s actual intent was to access a resource identified by the same name in a private network.”
ICANN says that domain name collisions create “name resolution uncertainty” and blur the boundaries between private and public namespaces, making it important to avoid clashes as much as possible.
But the introduction of hundreds of new top-level domain names (TLDs) has increased concern around potential collisions.
Some of the new domain name extensions, such as .Home and .Corp, are already used by private networks. The introduction of identical public domain name options, then, could mean that people trying to access these private networks end up redirected to public domains, and vice versa.
But ICANN says that the chances of collisions should not increase because of new domain names and has released a new report explaining the risks and outlining recommendations to avoid any issues.
“This report takes an in-depth look at the collision issue and the potential risks and impacts, and gives us some very clear advice aimed at how to help system operators detect and mitigate those risks,” said Akram Atallah, President of ICANN’s Global Domains Division.
Atallah added that the next step is to “seek input from our community on the report’s findings”, with public comments on the report open until 21st April 2014.
While ICANN has stressed that name collisions are not new and should not be increased by the introduction of new TLDs, it is clear that more awareness of the issue will benefit people working both in the private and public domain spaces.
So whether you currently use a private network or want to invest in a brand new domain name, being aware of collisions will help you figure out the best ways forward.